I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) remains one of Meat Loaf’s most beloved songs, but the singer had a complex relationship with the track.
Recorded at the Ocean Way studios in Hollywood and released in 1993 as the first single from the second Bat Out Of Hell album, the work earned the flamboyant music star a Grammy and reached number one in 28 countries.
Regular collaborator Jim Steinman wrote the lyrics while English singer Lorraine Crosby delivered the last few verses, credited only as Mrs Loud in the sleeve notes.
Cher, Melissa Etheridge and Bonnie Tyler had also been considered for the part.
However, the repeated line “I won’t do that” has become one of the most misunderstood lyrics in music.
Meat Loaf fielded questions about the true meaning of “that” throughout his career.
In fact, the lyrics themselves explain the meaning of the word.
Each verse mentions two things Meat Loaf would do for love, followed by one thing he will not – with “that” referring to the promise he made earlier in the verse.
According to the song, things he would not do include “forget the way you feel right now”, “forgive myself if we don’t go all the way tonight”, “do it better than I do it with you”, and “stop dreaming of you every night of my life”.
In a 1998 TV special, he even clarified the meaning on stage using a blackboard and a pointer.
What was ‘That’ by the way? We will never know. #Meatloaf 🙏
— Rebecca Ferguson (@RebeccaFMusic) January 21, 2022
Following Meat Loaf’s death, singer Rebecca Ferguson referred to the perceived ambiguity of the lyric.
She wrote on Twitter: “What was ‘That’ by the way? We will never know.”
I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) remains a popular choice for the first dance at weddings and was performed by actress Nina Dobrev during a karaoke scene in the 2021 Netflix romantic-comedy Love Hard.
Comedian and actor Matt Iseman also recently delivered a memorable performance of the track on US reality show Lip Sync Battle, in which he wore a white tunic and delivered hip-thrusting dance moves reminiscent of Meat Loaf himself.
Another of the singer’s greatest hits, Bat Out Of Hell, was released as a single in 1979 and was inspired by the story of Peter Pan and Neverland.
After two minutes of instrumental piano and guitar, the lyrics describe a scene of “blood shot streets” and a girl who is “pure and good and right” before concluding with a dramatic bike crash.
The track was honoured at the Q Awards in 2008 with the classic song prize, and placed third in Top Gear’s list of the ultimate driving songs, voted for by viewers.